Gradwell Street, Liverpool
By Natasha Young | Cocktails & small plates | £££ | Gradwell Street, L1 4JH | 07877 693130
In recent years Liverpool’s Ropewalks district has become a hub of ‘secret’ cocktail purveyors and discreet spirits specialists.
From the mysterious upper floor Some Place to the undercover Berry and Rye, each have established themselves as quality drinking spots and seemingly risen in popularity due to their aura of only being known to those ‘in the know’, despite being in the thick of the area’s nightlife.
I had high hopes that Dramshop’s food and drink offering would live up to the same standards, and would be another hidden gem to treasure once discovered.
It certainly ticked the box of being discreet, and you could be forgiven for letting it slip under your radar since it popped up in recent months.
Situated on Gradwell Street, Dramshop is not a unit you’re too likely to find yourself strolling past at the moment. Off the main bar and restaurant-filled thoroughfares like Hanover Street, it’s also sitting in the shadow of the Wolstenholme Square development site.
When we turned up on a recent Saturday night the venue offered a cosy and atmospheric sanctuary from the wintery weather.
Candles provided just the right amount of light alongside a projection of ever impressive ‘Planet Earth’ footage, all soundtracked by an eclectic playlist of indie classics from the Strokes to timeless hits by The Jackson 5.
The food menu, which was in the midst of being extended, provided deli-style options perfect for a brunch/lunchtime visit – from grilled sandwiches to gourmet cheese on toast – as well as grazing boards, nibbles and topped fries which were ideal to share alongside evening drinks.
My love of cheese has been reasonably well documented in previous reviews, so it’s unsurprising that a board filled with cured meats, cheeses, olives, anti-pasti, chutneys, grapes and crackers (£12.50) was our first choice.
We also chose sausages in honey mustard (£4) and a portion of fries flavoured with garlic, chilli and pickles (£3.50) – an apparently popular choice amongst diners.
Ordering a drink, however, was a trickier affair. As the name Dramshop might suggest, the bar’s liquor selection is truly where it shines.
“The cocktail range is a broad array of original creations and new takes on classics, littered with 2019 drinks trends.”
Diverse and up to date, the cocktail range is a broad array of original creations and new takes on classics, littered with 2019 drinks trends. Sherry and the continually fashionable gin to Peruvian favourite Pisco were scattered around the menu.
Thankfully the knowledgeable bartender was happy to give recommendations suited to our tastes, and also veered from the extensive list.
My request for a tall, gin-based concoction was met with a towering Singapore Sling (£7) – a sweet, cherry delight which appealed to my sweet tooth.
My partner, who desired a whiskey-based tipple, was handed a classic Manhattan (£8) which came with a warning thanks to its all-alcohol ingredients (whiskey, vermouth and bitters), and even its cherry garnish was boozy.
As he sipped away at it, happily yet cautiously, we tucked into the food.
The grazing board, which could perhaps have been a little bigger for the price, did have a winning combination of cheeses including stilton, brie and manchego. The accompanying meats were also delicious, offering variation with serrano ham, spicy chorizo and German salami.
The simple bowl of mini sausages made a perfect side snack, served hot with their very moreish honey mustard glaze.
Meanwhile the chilli, garlic and pickle coated fries were a lot more subtle in flavouring than expected – on paper they had potential to really pack a punch – but enjoyable nonetheless.
We washed it all down with a second cocktail, this time sticking to the menu and my dinner date opting for something a little more easygoing.
He chose the Dark & Stormy (£5) – Sailor Jerry, lime juice, Angostura bitters and Old Jamaican Ginger Beer – which balanced sweetness with spice.
I, meanwhile, picked the Cobbled Bramble (£6) – raspberries, Curio Gin, sugar syrup, lemon juice and Xeco Fino Sherry.
A tasty and tangy hit, my drink was filled with fresh fruit – one of the signs of quality in Dramshop’s cocktail list which sets it apart from the overpriced, pre-mixed drinks available in some bars.
In our experience, Dramshop’s cocktails were well crafted, creative, perfectly presented and reasonably priced, making the venue as worthy of a visit as any of Liverpool’s renowned cocktail joints.
The addition of affordable food and snacks, and a relaxing setting to enjoy it all in only enhanced the trip.